The Color of Compromise

The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism
Length: 8 hrs and 22 mins
Categories: History, Religious
4.5 out of 5 stars (433 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Color of Compromise takes listeners on a historical journey: from America's early colonial days through slavery and the Civil War, covering the tragedy of Jim Crow laws and the victories of the Civil Rights era, to today's Black Lives Matter movement. Author Jemar Tisby reveals the obvious - and the far more subtle - ways the American church has compromised what the Bible teaches about human dignity and equality.

Tisby uncovers the roots of sustained injustice in the American church, highlighting the cultural and institutional tables that need to be turned in order to bring about real and lasting progress between Black and White people. Through a story-driven survey of American Christianity's racial past, he exposes the concrete and chilling ways people of faith have actively worked against racial justice, as well as the deafening silence of the white evangelical majority. Tisby shows that while there has been progress in fighting racism, historically the majority of the American church has failed to speak out against this evil. This ongoing complicity is a stain upon the church, and sadly, it continues today.

Tisby does more than diagnose the problem, however. He charts a path forward with intriguing ideas that further the conversation as he challenges us to reverse these patterns and systems of complicity with bold, courageous, and immediate action. The Color of Compromise provides an accurate diagnosis for a racially divided American church and suggests creative ways to foster a more equitable and inclusive environment among God's people.

©2019 Jemar Tisby (P)2019 Zondervan
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A Challenging Review to Write

WHO IS THE TARGET AUDIENCE?

Let me be clear right at the start - this is probably one of the most difficult books I've ever attempted to review, and the thoughts represented below may evolve as I continue to ponder and meditate on some of the key themes communicated throughout the book.

In a preview video about the book, Jemar Tisby said, "“Christians in America have (by and large, not to a person, but as a group and historically) have cooperated with racism instead of confronting it.”

This quote will almost certainly create an emotional response from those who hear it, and I would caution anybody who would have a negative thought to lean into the discomfort a bit. In other words, when thinking about the target audience, I would say:

(1) Anybody who DOES NOT have much knowledge of enslaved peoples in the United States, from the 1700's through present day. For example, a high-school / college student, or other adult who is unaware of just how much history there is regarding this subject, or...

(2) Those who DO have knowledge of enslaved peoples in the United States, but that knowledge has come from select sources that may not represent the full picture, or...

(3) Anybody who is willing to go into this book with an OPEN mind, who is willing to seriously consider any unconscious thoughts or beliefs they may have regarding racial equality (or inequality) in the United States.

WHAT DID YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT "The Color of Compromise"? HOW WAS THE CONTENT?

Admittedly, much of the general content was history in which I was familiar. For example, I was familiar with the atrocities of enslaved people in the 1700-1800's, the horrendous Jim Crow laws, and more. However, there are several specific examples as to laws passed or other examples of the church's failures to address the issue, and many of the specific examples are ones I may not have been aware of.

One criticism I'll note is that Tisby did not fully cover the differences of slavery / enslaved people in the U.S. in the 1700-1800's vs. how slavery functioned in Ancient Israel (Old Testament) and the Roman Empire (New Testament). There was a short section in which this was mentioned, but it provided very little detail. As such, I think it would've been very helpful for most readers to have more insight that when reading about "slavery" in the Bible, the cultural context was very different than how slavery occurred early in U.S. history.

This criticism aside, I rate the book a solid 4/5 stars. Mostly, I appreciated the final chapter in which Tisby outlines potential solutions for how the church / Christians today can better address the topic of race. His point that evangelicals are concerned about understanding the Scriptures well, and would do well to better educate ourselves on understanding the history of enslaved peoples and the impact it has had on our culture was a good point to make, and worthy of further reflection.

HOW DOES IT STAND OUT AS AN AUDIOBOOK? HOW WAS THE NARRATOR AND/OR THE RECORDING QUALITY?

Tisby does a good job narrating the book, and it was good to hear from the author's voice. I will note that...

(1) The cadence of his voice wasn't always natural or as conversational as it could've been. It wasn't distracting, but didn't quite feel natural, and...

(2) There were 2 or 3 times when a clear recording error was found. For example, on one occasion Tisby read the exact same sentence twice. There were other moments when a word or short phrase may have been repeated as well.

But all in all, I was able to listen at 1.25 or 1.5x and could retain the information well.

ANY FINAL THOUGHTS? WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS RESOURCE TO OTHERS?

All in all, I would recommend the book to others. While there were some sections that were slightly lacking, and while I believe Tisby could've provided MORE examples as to how the church can better respond to the topic of racial equality today, it was a good listen.

I would likely give it another 1/4 to 1/2 star if there was a short PDF included with questions for discussion added for each chapter. This would be a great book for a church staff or small group to read through and discuss, and having good discussion questions available would've been a big help.

If not a discussion guide, having a "Questions for Individual Reflection" at the end of each chapter would also prove valuable. Providing the reader the opportunity to really dig-in to their own upbringing / experience, to journal and consider perspectives that may differ from their own would make this an even better resource.

Despite these minor shortcomings, it's a good resource. As somebody who lives in a town that is 95% white and grew up in a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon protestant) family, I'll likely listen to it again in the future, as I really would like to better understand the topic, and would like to enter into conversations about race feeling more informed, and more empathetic towards those who may have grown up less privileged than myself.

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We All Need to Read/Listen to This

I have never written a review on Audible before--but I feel the need to encourage anyone who comes across this book to read or listen to it. It is the history we MUST face if we are going to change the racial issues that are still haunting our country. And this is especially true in the church and among Christians who try to divide things into sacred/ secular and claim that racial justice is not a biblical issue. They are wrong. Tisby's writing is non-compromising--but it also has a pastoral tone. He has written it out of love, and this is obvious. I implore you to open your mind and heart to listen to this painful story and Tisby's brilliant commentary. We all need to hear this.

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I’m better after reading this book.

Knowledge is powerful, and this book is full of knowledge. I wish I got this in high school or college. While in your face with the truth, Jemar Tisby does a great job for the majority of the book of keeping bias opinions out of this. He lets the truth speak for itself. For anyone trying to understand our racial society this will be one of my top books to recommend!

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An important word for the American church

Even if one does not agree with every single thing Jemar Tisby writes, this book contains valuable examinations of primary sources and historical events that every Christian in America (especially white ones) should be familiar with. I’ve followed Jemar’s work closely for several years and was still learning new things on nearly every page. If you get this book and there are parts that make you uncomfortable, I encourage you to meditate on them and ask yourself when was the last time you examined that history or the scripture addressing that cultural phenomenon? This helped me as I made my way through and I hope it might do the same for others in their journey on this topic.

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A must read for all Christians!

This was an excellent analysis's of the race issue that is facing the church today! I recently wrote a paper on this exact same topic for my final exam this past Spring and I wish that I had used some of the sources that he compiled to write this book. Overall this is a must read for anyone trying to build bridges between between cultures and classes.

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This book is an important historical contribution

Jemar Tisby did a great job covering the history of complicity in the American church. You will find example after example of true complicity in his book. History like this has the potential to liberate habits of complicity, if the reader is willing to let it do so.

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A Difficult & Needed Look Back

Tisby's look back through the history of the American Church and it's ignorance, complicity or in some cases participation in racism is a challenging and difficult listen, but a needed one. This is a very quick tour though history and further reading would be required to fully understand times and events shared, and even ones that this book didn't cover. However it is a great introduction to needed knowledge. Sin is an ugly thing and it is evidenced here, but there is not an overwhelming theme of targeting one people group. Nor is this simply a lament that fails to bring hope, the final chapter gives constructive ideas and ways we as the church can continue to change the tide from a dark and devastating past.

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Great read!

Great read! Narration and content easy to understand. Aligns with the Bible and current day challenges with solutions. A must read!

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One of the most enlightening books of the 21st century

I think civil rights will be an issue until Jesus comes back. This book gives us a historical foundation of why we are still fighting for those civil rights today and why we should be. The biblical references in this book are in context and offer a Godly perspective of why we should continue to fight for civil rights as well. I am sure I will listen to it again, in fact I’m going to purchase the paperback and kindle version. Great job!!!!!

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6/5 stars.

Most condensed, yet comprehensive coverage of the subject. This has become my top resource for trying to educate people on the systemic racism issues our nation, and churches still have.

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  • BruthazKeepah
  • 05-17-19

Heartbreakingly real + helpful “read”

I’m listening to this on Audible. It’s heartbreaking, so going slow. Tackles lots of things in the Christian church’s history that we have often yet to acknowledge, never mind truly grapple with.
Somebody needs to write this book for the South African church (my home nation, which shares a similar history, with Christianity providing the theological backing for a lot of apartheid state’s dehumanising action and treatment of Black image bearers). I’ll have to, if nobody else does.
Oh, and the Brit church too!

Much of these facts alone are well known. But seeing all (selectively, yes!) string together highlights the complicity. Makes me think of Frederick Douglas’ words (nothing new; just all heartbreakingly brought together in a helpful way).

Thanks Jemar!

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  • Joshua
  • 02-13-19

History with an unnecessary addition

I picked this book up as a passing interest in its premise. Not being an American and only seeing things in movies to do with their history I thought it might be a good read, from a Christian viewpoint. I think the easiest way to say why I only gave it 2 stars is from a pro/con list.

Pro's:
The history was interesting and there were moments where I felt sick or wanted to cry.
Learning the history of complicity in racism in the church, especially looking at it on the view of the church modeling culture rather than Jesus, is a sobering reminder of the dangers of getting close to the world and what can happen because of that.

Con's:
This may be my mistake, but I thought this was supposed to be from a Christian perspective. While many statements are made (expecting us to believe it is truth according to the bible) no justification or passages are ever given. From memory, there was only one bible passage used and it was at the end, in regards to someone else and their initiative.

The writer seems to have rose coloured glasses on. To clarify, there are a few times where the author refers to the slaves homeland and almost waxes lyrical about it. Including, in a way, promoting their pagan beliefs. Again, may be my mistake in believing it was from a Christian perspective. This issue is also seen in the authors take on Martin Luther King Jr though. It is kind of portrayed that MLK was perfect (maybe not that far, but making the point). Overall, this adds a bias to the book, that while hard to avoid when telling history, does ruin it a little.

The history part was interesting. The author should have stopped there, unfortunately the author then goes on to make it a political piece, specifically against the republican party, which I found weird. I can understand what he is saying in regards to the republican party, but find it weird that they are solely focused on. Maybe this one is just an American thing though?

There are other issues I have with it as well, but I feel this is getting a bit long and don't want to be too negative.

I do think the book is worth a read, I just wouldn't hold too much stock in it.

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